Because of Timothy’s natural inclination to timidity, Paul was prompted to encourage his fellow worker to maintain a holy boldness and assurance in his position of spiritual leadership. Paul had commissioned Timothy to oversee many of the churches in the Roman province of Asia, and this task required “power, love and self-discipline.” Self-discipline is needed to stretch us beyond our own comfort zones and areas of personal inertia. For some, the needed discipline will be more in the realm of the emotions; for others the focus of self-control will be in the realm of the mind or of the will.

Writing to the Galatians, Paul said that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). While people without Christ can exercise self-control, this quality in its fullest expression of character transformation is a part of the spiritual fruit that only the Holy Spirit can produce.

Self-discipline is seldom easy. Paul’s words to Timothy reveal that this young man probably struggled with it in his ministry. And most leaders who come across the need for more self-discipline in their lives struggle at times as well. But read Paul’s instruction to Timothy again in this passage, and let it sink in and empower you in the areas in which you most need help. God’s Spirit is the power source behind self-discipline. Timothy evidently found that out, and so can you.

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